There have been books written about the misconceptions about homeschooling. One neglected point I've found during the 18 years I have been homeschooling is the fact that homeschool does not have to dictate the style of your house. While there are plenty of homeschooling families who are fine with having homeschool stuff all over the house with no rhyme or reason, there are plenty who manage to maintain a house that is welcoming to guests without a lot of effort.
Whether you're new to homeschooling or a veteran, the tips below can help you not only maintain order but to do it with some style!
STORAGE! In real estate it's all about location, location, location. If you're homeschooling it doesn't seem to matter if it's one child or seven or if you live in 5000 sq. ft. or 1000 sq. ft. Storage is what you are looking for! It really is as simple as everything having a place! Even very young children can learn to put things back if there's an actual place to put it!
Bookshelves – if you are homeschooling, there is no such thing as too many bookshelves. Ever. The key is to make your shelves coordinate even if they're mismatched. The easiest way to do this is paint. Yes, laminate can be painted. Ask me in the comments. If you're lucky enough to have a budget for bookshelves, built-ins look fantastic and are a great feature when you go to resell your house. Go ahead and spend an afternoon playing librarian once or twice a year. Group non-fiction by subject and fiction by age, then author. Intersperse books with things like your globe, a pretty basket full of math manipulatives, framed kid art and sculptures. Cover shoe boxes with pretty wrapping paper and label them for things like: glue, scissors, pencils, etc. work them onto your shelves for some color and to keep you organized.
Dressers – Nothing beats a great dresser if you're homeschooling. If you have a dining room, consider getting a super large dresser and using it for school supplies rather than fine china. If not, get creative with smaller versions. A tall skinny dresser can look cute under stairs or in an entry. Use small 2-3 drawer dressers as end tables so they're doing double duty.
Lockers – This option requires ample space but for homeschool kids, it's almost as cool as getting to ride the school bus. (Sort of joking LOL) Keep your eyes peeled on sites like Craigslist, Facebook Market and other online selling groups for sets of used lockers. They are perfect in a mudroom and are easily painted to suit your tastes. Voila! Storage for coats, boots, books and notebooks.
Make Your Own – Create a school table similar to the one in the picture. If you have a dedicated homeschool room, perfect. If your kitchen or dining room is doing double duty, decide if you can live with this as a replacement for your family table.
ROUTINE! No matter how you do it, homeschooling does take over your life to a certain degree. Having a regular routine can be key to keeping the clutter from getting overwhelming.
Try using a big family calendar located in a central location. If you have a large family, pick one color for each member and use that consistently on the calendar.
Frame a dry erase board for daily schedules for young kids. With older kids a daily email or print out is usually enough. Keep it up to date.
On the daily schedule, include a morning clean up right before lunch and an afternoon clean once the last task is complete. DO NOT do this for your kids! It's slow in the beginning but worth it to teach your kids how to do it. It will become second nature. (Mostly!)
USE YOUR WALLS! The key to having a life and homeschooling is not to try to hide the fact that you homeschool. Rather, use your space in interesting attractive ways.
Maps – Invest in some large, nice looking maps of the world, the US and whatever else you might need. You can attach them to foam board and frame them with molding from Home Depot. They look awesome, they're easy to use and you will be astounded at the crazy conversations you end up having next time you have guests! People love maps!
Timelines – Depending on how you homeschool, you might use timelines. I found buying a roll of butcher paper and lining a hallway -one strip of paper for each kid, separated by molding – to be a great, space-saving way to maintain a timeline. It's fun to see the timeline change throughout the year. It rolls up nicely and is easy to save.
Chalkboard Paint – NOT chalk paint but actual chalkboard paint can be a lifesaver if you have a fidgety kid. I painted the door leading to our garage with black chalkboard paint. First, no dirt shows – it was awesome. Second, fidgety kid can dance around AND do math drills. No sweat, no tears.
WATCH A COUPLE EPISODES OF HOARDERS. I'm serious. Come back and read when you're done. . . Ready? You do not want to be on this show! Yes, every bit of work your child does is precious. But, if you save every scrap, you will have boxes and boxes and boxes of paper that you don't remember why you saved by the time your child graduates. (Ask how I know.) Keep what you need according to your state's laws. Beyond that? Each kid gets a clean, empty pizza box for each year. If it can't fit in the box, and you MUST save it, save it digitally. I'll expect a thank you and an invitation to your child's high school graduation.
ACCEPT HOMESCHOOLING AS PART OF YOUR STYLE. It doesn't matter what you like, homeschooling has now become part of your style. There will be times when it gets away from you and that's okay. You'll be able to reign it in if you give your early decisions some thought. I'll leave you with a couple of examples – you can come back to them when you need a boost!
A party that involved my parents and some of their friends along with our friends. The house looked great. The mason jars filled with teeth in assorted liquid with various degrees of rotten-ness that were sitting on the kitchen window sill? Gross but what are you going to do?
Dinner eaten around a giant salt map of Australia -complete with kangaroos, boomerangs and aborigines? There are worse things.
Eating out because we nearly set the house on fire during a chemistry experiment? It happens.
If you decide to homeschool, for one or or all the years, congratulations. You won't forget or regret it.